Easter Surprises

A big family is wonderful for celebrations and backing each other up. But maybe not so great to buy gifts for…

Kate looked at the array of Easter eggs on the supermarket shelves and sighed. Her siblings – she was one of six – had decided that Easter was getting out of hand.

“This year,” one of her sisters had suggested, “let’s just give eggs to the children and leave the adults out of it.”

Which was all very well, Kate thought, but between them they had twelve children. Twelve! She was the only one still unattached.

Even her younger brother had been married for several years, which made her feel decrepit, but thirty-four wasn’t quite over the hill, was it?

“Ah, Kate, the unsold daughter!” her brother-in-law David had said playfully at New Year.

His wife had poked him in the ribs, told him he’d had too much prosecco and assured Kate that she’d meet Mr Right any day now – 2022 would be her year.

Which hadn’t made her feel any better.

“There’s a much better Easter egg selection up the road,” a voice said behind her, jolting Kate back to her current supermarket dilemma.

Kate turned quickly to see a tall man in his mid-30s gazing down at her. He had dark unruly hair and green eyes.

He only needed glasses and he’d be an adult Harry Potter, she thought inconsequentially, then realised he was still looking at her, expecting a response.


“You know the shop I mean? The Chocolate Emporium?”

“Oh… er… yes, I’ve looked in the window.

“They’re beautiful eggs, but a bit too expensive. I’ve got a lot of eggs to buy,” she added defensively, in case he thought her mean.

Not, of course, that it mattered what some total stranger thought. Even if he was the best-looking man she’d spoken to for some time. Quite some time.

“Oh no, do you have a whole tribe of children? Like the old woman who lived in a shoe? Not that you could possibly be an old…”

She thought she saw him glance covertly at her left hand, but then again maybe she’d imagined it.

“Nephews and nieces,” she said succinctly. “Twelve of them,” she added with a grimace.

“They’re lovely of course, but twelve’s a lot, and I’m not sure their taste in chocolate is all that sophisticated. They probably want eggs shaped like dinosaurs or decorated with unicorns or fairies or footballs or something.

“But you’re right. I think I’d better look elsewhere. I’ve still got a week.” She sighed. “And these are all different sizes and prices. I need to find eggs that are all the same size so I’m not showing favouritism and they don’t squabble…”

She looked at her watch. “In any case, I’m due back at work. This is my lunch hour.”

“That’s a shame, I was about to ask if you’d got time for a coffee. I’m Jack, by the way. Jack Green.” He hesitated, then said, “Would you… would you have coffee with me tomorrow? I know it’s rather forward of me, but…”

“Yes,” Kate found herself saying (with what all her sisters, she knew, would regard as indecent haste), “I’d like to.”

“There’s that great coffee shop opposite The Chocolate Emporium. I go there a lot. So what time’s your lunch break tomorrow?”

They arranged to meet at noon the following day and Kate spent the remainder of that afternoon wondering what to wear. She wanted to strike a balance between looking good, and not looking as if she’d dressed up specially.

At last five o’clock arrived, and Kate left the insurance company where she worked with more of a spring in her step than she’d had for some considerable time.

The following day, Kate put on her favourite outfit and took more care than usual with her make-up.

This did, predictably, give rise to avid speculation among her colleagues as to where she was going (and with whom), but Kate simply laughed and left the office without answering their many questions.

Jack was already sitting at a table outside the coffee shop – looking just as dazzling as he had the day before – but stood up as she approached.

“Will you be warm enough outside?” he said, smiling at her. “As it’s such a lovely day…”

“Outside would be great,” Kate enthused. “I don’t get to see much daylight from my desk.

“I work over there. In the basement,” she added, indicating a tall building at the end of the street.

“Ah. That explains it. I thought I’d seen you about.”

He headed inside the shop to order, while she wondered why she had never seen him. She wouldn’t, she was sure, have forgotten.

Kate gazed around with interest at the narrow pedestrianised street.

The café was busy, the outside tables filling up fast with shoppers enjoying the early April sunshine.

A man wearing a green striped apron came out of the chocolate shop opposite, wielding a long pole, and started to lower the distinctive green and white striped awning.

He stood aside to allow customers in and out, some of them clutching matching green and white bags. Bay trees stood smartly on either side of the door.

No wonder it was expensive, Kate thought – the bags alone must cost a fortune.

She screwed up her eyes against the sunshine and peered at the window display.

Instead of the usual arrangement of handmade chocolates (in, naturally, green and white boxes), there were rows of small Easter eggs surrounding an odd-shaped chocolate creation that she couldn’t quite make out.

It was enormous. The largest egg she’d ever seen, if that’s what it was. It must have been half a metre high.

She stood up to see better. Surely that little egg at the end of the top shelf had an iced unicorn on it? Her nieces would love those.

And…? But it couldn’t be. Could it? The egg next to it featured a dinosaur. And she thought she could make out a ballerina. They would be perfect, just as Jack had said.

But one thing she was sure of: they would cost the earth.

Even a fiver, multiplied by twelve… And she was sure they wouldn’t cost as little as that.

As she looked, a shadowy figure inside the shop removed three of the eggs, spoiling the pattern. Then they took another couple from a different row. They were clearly selling like the proverbial hot cakes.

“Coffee and cake,” Jack said happily, reappearing at that moment. “Maybe not the healthiest of lunches, but I didn’t want you to starve.”

They were quiet for a few minutes while they ate and sipped their coffee, then both spoke at once.

“Did I see you looking…?”

“I was just looking at…”

“You first,” Jack said, smiling.

“I was just looking at the eggs in the window opposite,” Katie said ruefully. “It’s such a beautiful shop, as you said, it really makes the whole street look smart. And the display certainly makes you want to shop there – but I expect they cost an arm and a leg.”

“We should go and have a look,” Jack said, “when we’ve finished our coffee.”

He turned to look at the shop, then turned back, frowning.

“Would you like anything else?”

He suddenly seemed in a bit of hurry, Kate thought. Perhaps he’d had enough of her. Which would be a pity.

“They had more a few minutes ago,” Kate said, waving a hand towards the Easter eggs in the window. “They’re certainly popular.”

“So I see,” Jack said grimly.

“Can we go and look in the window properly?” Kate asked. “Mind you, it’s such a posh shop that it probably wouldn’t have anything as vulgar as a price tag on view.”

“Oh, I don’t suppose they’d be that much,” he said. “We could go in and look, anyway. When do you have to be back at work?”

Kate looked at her watch and almost screeched.

“Oh my goodness, I’ll have to run. Thank you so much for the coffee. And the cake. I really must go.”

For some reason he looked… relieved?

So that’s that then, she thought forlornly.

But suddenly he leaned towards her and kissed her chastely on the cheek.

“Tomorrow, then? Same time, same place?” he asked hopefully.

When Kate reached the office, ten minutes late and completely out of breath, her boss pounced on her, and she didn’t have any time to think about anything other than renewing policies and answering the phone for the rest of the afternoon.

“So, what are you doing over the holiday weekend?” Jack asked as soon as she sat down (at the same table) the following day.

“Oh, I’ll spend it with my family. We all go to my parents’ on Easter Sunday. They’ve got the biggest house.”

“What, all of you? How many of you are there?”

“Oh, you know… hundreds,” she said, trying to sound more enthusiastic and failing.

He was looking at her questioningly, so she counted them off on her fingers.

“My parents obviously (positively basking in their huge family – they love it when we all get together), so that’s two. Then there’s me, my four sisters and their husbands and my brother and his wife… So that’s thirteen, then there are the children.”

“Your parents kept trying until they had a boy?” Jack asked, grinning.

“Yes – and thank goodness he arrived when he did, or there’d probably be even more of us.”

“And the twelve children make twenty-five?”

“Yep. Nine girls and three boys – our family’s good at making girls. Their ages range from three to twelve, so the noise is horrendous.”

Jack was looking pensive now.

“I’m really envious. I’m an only child, so it will be three of us for Easter lunch. I’m going to my parents’. I can’t imagine such a big family gathering.”

“Oh, it’s even worse at Christmas – there are uncles and aunts and cousins to fit in then as well.”

“It must be some shoe,” Jack said, rolling his eyes.


“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe… you know?”

“My parents rattle round in it now,” Kate laughed, “but yes, it’s a big sprawling house. You’ve probably driven past it. On the Westchester Road? Just after the farm shop entrance?”

“Really? I’ve often wondered who lived there.” He paused, then said, “And have you bought your eggs yet?”

“No,” Kate said, looking anguished, “and I’ve only got today and Saturday left. It’s stupid of me, but we’ve been so busy at work…

“Anyway, it’s late night opening tonight, so I’m going to nail it this evening.”

“Why don’t I come with you?

“Then I could buy you dinner as a reward afterwards.”

“That would certainly speed up the process,” Kate said. “I’m sure I wouldn’t dither anything like as much if I had that to look forward to. But are you sure?”

“I’ll meet you outside your office, shall I? Half past five?”

Jack was frantically busy all afternoon, and only just made it to the imposing entrance of Kate’s office by five-thirty. People were pouring out of the building, but Kate wasn’t among them.

He couldn’t stop smiling to himself. A whole evening with Kate! And he had no intention of letting her spend a fortune on whatever Easter eggs the supermarkets had left by now. No. He’d march her straight back to The Chocolate Emporium and not take no for an answer.

He looked at his watch: five thirty-five. She must have been held up.

Five-forty. He scrolled down to her mobile number, but got no reply.

Five-fifty. Concerned, he walked up to the woman who was still manning the reception desk.

“I could ring her extension number if you like?” she offered.

The number rang and a man’s voice answered.

“Sorry, no, Kate hasn’t been here all afternoon. Some good Samaritan rang us from A&E – apparently she tripped on her way back from lunch, and they think she may have broken her ankle. Just what you want for a long Easter weekend! What? The Royal, I suppose…”

On her way back from lunch? When she’d just left him? He should have been with her, walked her back to her office… But it was too late for such thoughts now.

Jack fished his mobile out of his pocket and punched in the number for their local hospital.

Yes, they’d had a Katherine Chambers in but she’d been discharged.

No, they couldn’t give him her address. Data protection, you see.

How had they got this far without him having her address, for heaven’s sake? Jack thought, kicking himself. And why wasn’t she answering her phone?

But he didn’t need her address, he suddenly realised. He knew where her parents lived. He’d go there right now.

Ten minutes later her mother opened the door, and told him that Katherine was staying with them to recuperate, but was still very woozy from the number of painkillers she’d been given.

“I’m Jack, and we were supposed to be having dinner – and then going shopping,” he explained, at which point Mrs Chambers (who introduced herself as Sarah) began to pay him a great deal more attention.

“She’s been fretting about you,” she told him, “her phone flew out of her hand and landed under the wheels of a lorry. She’d only got your number on her phone, and didn’t know where you worked so she couldn’t let you know.

“She’ll be really sorry to have missed you, but she’s fast asleep just now – zonked out on painkillers.”

“Could you could give her a message? Could you tell her that I’ve done her shopping for her, and I’ll get the items to her before Sunday.”

“Do you mean the Easter eggs? She’s been fretting about those too!”

Then Sarah frowned.

“You could bring them on Sunday if you like – would you be able to come to tea?

“Mind you,” she added darkly, “the whole tribe will be here, so it might feel like the Spanish Inquisition…”

He’d already been interrogated once today, Jack thought, remembering Sarah’s words as he approached the door of the rambling house. His own mother’s antennae had waved visibly as soon as he mentioned having tea with Kate’s family.

One of Kate’s sisters opened the door and he was hit by a barrage of noise, like a party in full swing.

Kate was sitting on a sofa with her sturdily booted leg up, and her crutches within reach (so, she explained, she could fight off over-zealous nephews and nieces). The children were eyeing Jack’s many striped bags inquisitively.

“These are just perfect,” Kate said as she distributed exquisitely decorated eggs to her nephews and nieces.

The children were exclaiming rapturously over the beautifully crafted unicorns and dinosaurs, each one different.

“I’m surprised they had any left,” Kate said, wonderingly.

Jack paused. The moment of truth.

“Um… we didn’t,” he confessed, “but as it’s my shop I stayed up late and made some more.

“And this one’s for you,” he finished, presenting her with the last enormous bag. “I made it straight after our first meeting.”

Very carefully, she lifted out a huge creation that she’d seen in the Chocolate Emporium’s window and hadn’t recognised. It was a huge chocolate house, shaped like an old-fashioned shoe, with children looking out of every shuttered window.

For the first time, the entire noisy family was quiet as they stared in awe at the enormous chocolate edifice.

At last the silence was broken by David, Kate’s oldest – and least tactful – brother-in-law.

“Well. Kate. I don’t know what to say.”

“Say nothing,” his wife said hurriedly.

“But you’ve got to admit, any guy who gives a girl that has got to be serious. Hasn’t he? And we don’t seem to have put them off having a big family, do we?”

The advantage of a large family, Kate thought (blushing furiously), was that all of them were telling David off so thoroughly that they didn’t notice Jack bend over to kiss her.

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